UK lawmakers have urged Formula 1 to launch an impartial investigation into the connections between races and human rights abuses.
The action was taken before of Sunday’s opening race of the 2023 season in Bahrain.
Lord Scriven, the head of the parliamentary committee looking into Gulf human rights, wants F1 to call on Bahrain to free political prisoners and people on death row.
F1 defended holding events in nations whose human rights records have drawn criticism.
The Chequered Flag 2023 season preview can be heard.
In a statement, F1 stated: “Formula 1 has put a lot of effort into becoming a good influence everywhere it competes, bringing about advantages on the economic, social, and cultural fronts.
“The passion and thrill of extraordinary competition and accomplishment can unite nations and communities, and sports like Formula One are well positioned to do this.
We take our obligations very seriously, and we have been very explicit about our stance on human rights and other problems with all of our partners and host nations that agree to uphold human rights in the organization and hosting of their events.
The Bahrain Grand Prix is one of many held in nations that have been singled out by human rights organizations for committing violations of those rights.
A week after Bahrain, Saudi Arabia will host the second race of the year. Other nations hosting races this year include Azerbaijan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. This year’s Chinese Grand Prix was postponed due to the unpredictability of the country’s Covid-19 situation.
The USA, whose use of the death sentence has drawn criticism from Amnesty International, will also host three races this year.
Human rights organizations charge that governments in nations like Saudi Arabia exploit international athletic events to divert attention from their history of abuses and give them the appearance of legitimacy. This behavior is now referred to as “sports-washing.”
“It is a pity that the current leadership of the FIA and F1 seem to think money, profit, and their own self-importance are far more important than giving dignity and basic human rights to people in the country that they make profit from,” said Lord Scriven, a member of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf.
Sayed Alwadaei, the Bahrain Institute of Rights and Democracy’s (Bird) director of advocacy, added: “It is past time for F1 and the FIA to stop enabling the blood-spattered images of these autocracies to be sports-washed by their presence in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
“As thousands of political prisoners languish in prison, both states receive rich F1 contracts and take advantage of the F1 platform to sanitize their reputations on the international stage despite having appalling human rights records.
“The FIA must implement a human rights policy in line with UN principles, and F1 must set up an impartial, impartial investigation to look at the involvement that their races played in human rights breaches.
If they don’t, their sport will keep being exploited to restore the reputation of cruel tyrants.
The testimony of current and former political prisoners from Bahrain was highlighted during a news conference held on Tuesday at the Houses of Parliament in London.
Relatives of prisoners on death row who are about to be executed have written to F1 drivers pleading with them to step in.
Bird quotes Ali Al-Hajee, a detainee at Bahrain’s Jau Prison, as saying: “It is really regrettable that Formula 1, as well as many other international events held in Bahrain, are used as a front to stifle free speech and cover up violations of human rights.
“I was given a 10-year prison sentence as a prisoner of conscience in May 2013 for peacefully exercising my First Amendment rights in the nation’s capital, Manama. I experienced severe physical and mental torture. The 10-year prison term was based on my coerced confession.”
F1 has a commitment to upholding human rights in its corporate charter, which states that it will “respect internationally recognized human rights in its operations globally,” track the effects of its operations on human rights and identify any negative effects, and “engage in meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders.”
Through a number of reforms, Bahrain claims to have “made considerable strides in defending and protecting human rights and upholding the dignity of people and residents” and that it is “dedicated to respecting and developing” human rights.